Intranet has become a dirty word in the technology world, but that won’t be the case much longer.

Changes are brewing for intranets, and for once it isn’t only at the enterprise level. 

This will be the first in a series exploring what’s happening in the world of SharePoint releases and the wider intranet ecosystem and how these changes will impact everyone from SMBs up to the enterprise. 

Beating the Statistics

By now the value and the promise of a robust intranet is clear to most companies. An intranet can become the essential way people connect within any sized company, facilitating internal communications and fostering collaboration, which is a must in today’s business environment. 

Step Two Design CEO James Robertson’s recent article is a must read for anyone interested in intranets. In it, Robertson looks at some of the herculean changes taking place within the SharePoint ecosystem — a positive and long overdue pivot to ease of use and buying products. Products like Nintex’s Workflow and Perficient’s Rise Foundation are easy to consume, stay updated and don’t require the planning and update cycles so common in our recent past.

According to Robertson, 75 percent of all intranets are on SharePoint — which may come as a surprise to some. To add some context to that statistic, Gartner stated in 2014 that more than 50 percent of all organizations were stalled, struggling or failing with their SharePoint deployment. 

From the looks of the changes taking place, Microsoft and its partner community have heard these statistics.  

An Evolution

At their best, intranets are organic and ever changing, just as most companies are today. Employees move between different groups, small and growing companies as well as enterprises launch new products, new facilities are opened, people work remotely. A good intranet can respond to all of these changes.

Keeping ahead of the competition requires greater alacrity than ever before — across often geographically dispersed employees in a company. The more you grow, the more challenging it gets for people to make the right connections and communicate effectively. A robust intranet serves as the hub of internal communications, idea sharing, collaborating or simply sharing a file. 

SharePoint was never designed or built to be an end-all, be-all Intranet solution. But it has morphed into that position and now has the partner community building products that make this platform bigger and more powerful than before. This is a fundamental shift from the days of using professional services to meet your needs. 

What’s in a Name?

So what’s out there that’s competing with SharePoint? 

Other wide ranging and extremely powerful solutions are available from Igloo Software, Jostle and big platforms like Salesforce have entered the discussion along with Amazon and its cloud offering AWS. Quasi intranet solutions like Insightly and big hybrid BPM solutions, Jive, Atlassian, Alfresco and of course the millennial buzzword bot Slack also are in the running. 

You can track how each one deals with Sites, Communities, Social, MySites, Search, Navigation, I am losing track here …. But when you go through this checklist of features and capabilities, what it comes down to is how do we define intranets these days and what are you buying when you buy a platform? 

Clients are asking these questions, but all of us in the partner ecosystem are also having these conversations. 

The 80/20 Percent Rule

So what is an intranet and what are you buying? 

There’s no easy answer. Traditionally companies made a lot of investment up front in getting the intranet’s structure just right —and unfortunately a lot of the same organizations found out that that investment was a waste. 

The more agile the company, the faster the intranet becomes dead weight. Sadly, this is how a lot of companies look at intranets. 

In watching corporate intranets evolve — not to mention following the love-hate relationships most companies have with their intranets — it has become clear that companies need an easy solution that gets them 80 percent of the way there from the day they turn it on.

Additional needs, customizations and integrations will surface as employees use it. That’s where the final 20 percent comes in — configuring to answer these needs. Most intranet platforms are not designed this way, and certainly not in a way that is easy for the typical content owners, publishers and IT pros to maintain with any degree of ease.

Cloud technologies have further enhanced the way work is produced, and vendors need to build intranet solutions that provide investment security for those that still using on-prem solutions. Companies long ago realized that migrating content from one product or release to another is a huge waste of precious resources. 

Investment security means that the intranet content is fully “migratable” with minimal work required from a company’s IT team. It’s somewhat surprising for some non-IT people to understand what kinds of complications can arise during what should be simple platform upgrades.

Fulfilling Promises

The upshot of all this is that while there’s been a lot of baggage associated with intranets, technology and our understanding of the digital workplace have evolved in such a way that the intranet of the future can and will finally be a real platform for communication, publishing and collaboration across companies. And it’s just in time to meet the demands of the current workplace.

By taking these factors into account, companies will be able to put their energy into what is being collaborated on and not the platforms being used. And who knows, maybe they’ll finally achieve the boost to productivity that the intranet has long promised?

What are you noticing in the space? Whether you’re a vendor or an end user — this is going to be a fun series — I would love to hear from you.

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